Introducing any pet to your family is always a tricky business — it’s a meeting that should take place with care and compassion for both the new animal as well as the pre-existing inhabitants of the home. The introductions become especially challenging, though, when you’re bringing a cat into a space that has been traditionally filled with dogs, dog lovers, or both.
Tips for Introducing a Cat
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you make the transition from a dog family to both a dog and cat family.
Meeting the Family
The first thing to consider is how your new feline companion will affect the lives of the humans living within your home. If you come from a dog family, you may come up against a bit of resistance as you try to sell your fido-friendly relatives on the pleasures of having a cat in the house.
As you go about this process, remember to bring up the consistent similarities that many dog and cat owners have in common. A well-acclimated loved family cat is just as easy to cuddle with, talk to, and generally spend time with as any pup.
Make sure to point this out, but also give them time to warm up to your new four-legged friend. Don’t force a connection. Just work to open their eyes to the new bond that can be formed.
When it comes to your dog, though, you’re going to want to be a little bit more hands-on with the transition process.
Meeting the Dog
As you prepare to allow your dog and your new cat to make each other’s acquaintance, it’s important to go about the process with caution and compassion for both animals.
Start by letting the cat acclimate to its new home without your dog around. Isolate your pup in a room that they’re comfortable with and then let the cat begin to gain an understanding of its new home on their own. Give them enough time to truly feel comfortable in their new space. If your dog is nearby but not directly in the room, they will be able to begin to understand their scent and the fact that another animal is sharing their space.
Next, begin to alternate and let each animal have a turn out in the house while the other is isolated and out of reach, allowing both to get used to the other’s presence and scent. This should take place over a few days. If you haven’t trained with your dog in a while, use this time to also remind them of their basic obedience training.
When the day of an official face-to-face meeting finally arrives, make sure to exhaust the dog with some good exercise before the encounter. If they’re as tired and relaxed as possible, they’ll be less likely to overreact to their new cohabitant.
Once they’re tired out, place them in a room that is controlled. Ideally, try to have your dog in their crate with a toy they love. Try to have another person in the room with you at this point, too, in order to praise and reward calm behavior with treats for both animals.
The Official Meeting
When you’re officially ready, bring in the cat and let them wander around at their leisure. Always make sure that they have a path to escape if they feel threatened by the dog.
Repeat this acclimating process on a regular basis — ideally a few times a day. Eventually, you can take the dog out of their kennel and keep them on a leash next to you. Again, don’t force a face to face meeting. Just let your cat wander. If the dog gets too excited, take them out of the room.
Repeat this process until they get used to each other. Make sure to praise your dog and give them plenty of attention throughout this process!
It can take a few weeks before everyone is calm and acclimated — and that’s okay. Bringing a new cat into a dog home takes time. Also, if you have more than one canine, make sure to introduce one dog at a time.
Maintaining the Relationship
Even once your dog and cat are comfortable in the same room, it’s important that you don’t leave them alone together unless the cat has a way to escape. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t warm up to each other, either. Sometimes dogs and cats simply can’t be as chummy as their owners may be hoping for.
However, introducing them to each other carefully can ensure that, regardless of their final relationship, the animals can at least cohabitate in the same space over the long term. Make sure that their eating and bathroom areas are also kept separate in order to preserve their own personal spaces.
General Cat Care Advice
If you’re a new cat owner, it’s also important for you to learn how to care for a cat. As you can imagine, it’s quite different from a dog. Here are a few hotspot items to keep in mind:
- While cats don’t need to be bathed as often as dogs, it’s still recommended that you bathe and dry your cat roughly every 4-6 weeks depending on the circumstances
- Try to take some time to learn your cat’s behavior. Cats are very different from dogs, and understanding the difference between things like playing and hunting or the various sounds they make can help you communicate better.
- Make sure to consider anyone in your household who may have allergies to cats. You can use things like an air purifier, CBD oil, or medicine to control the effects.
- Take the time to study how to feed your cat, what they need to be comfortable within their own spaces, and even how they look when they’re sick.
From food to cleaning, behavior, and illness, make sure to take the time to properly understand and care for your cat.
Bringing a Cat into the Mix
There are many considerations when it comes to bringing a cat into a dog-friendly home. From the humans and dogs that already live there to the incoming cats themselves, make sure to approach the entire acclimating process with care. If you do that, everyone in your household will be better off.